Every time she tossed the ball to serve, Riya Bhatia saw Christ the Redeemer, one of the seven wonders of the world, in Rio de Janeiro.
The 24-year-old Riya, the fourth best woman tennis player in the country behind Ankita Raina, Karman Thandi and Rutuja Bhosale, had a fruitful outing in Brazil, reaching the doubles final and the singles semifinals, a commendable fare on the slow red clay courts.
“It was a last minute decision to go to Brazil. I was already in the US, and everything worked out nicely. It was an amazing experience playing in Rio, just 25 minutes away from Christ the Redeemer statue”, recalled Riya, back home in Delhi.
Eventually, with the support of the Indian Embassy, Riya did manage to visit the wonder with her doubles runner-up trophy.
It was a last minute decision for Riya to play doubles, with Maria Paulina Perez-Garcia of Colombia. In eight matches, in singles and doubles in the $25,000 event, Riya recalled that all the opponents she faced, she saw them for the first time.
“Being all by myself there, and figuring out ways to win matches and play a good level of tennis really helped my confidence”, she said.
Having been ranked a career-best 338 in 2020, Riya is hungry to improve her status on the WTA computer. A rank of 488 does not reflect the real quality of her game.
Did she not miss out on the two $25,000 events in Gurugram which Karman and Sahaja Yamalapalli won one after the other.
“Well, I got a chance to play the $100,000 tournaments in US on clay courts. It was a rare opportunity to play bigger tournaments and I did well by qualifying for the main draw, winning against a top University player of US on her home and practice courts”, recalled Riya, ever willing to take up the bigger challenge.
Riya is looking forward to competing in the WTA event in Chennai and is all charged up to prepare her best, working on her game style and trying to be faster on court.
“It is a great initiative by everyone to host the WTA in Chennai. Having higher level tournaments at home is very helpful and gives us great exposure. It is amazing to play in front of home crowd”, she said.
Employed with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Riya gets the most support from her doting parents, with Head and Nike offering racquets and apparel.